Letter to Editor of WSJ re: 2008 Agenda Editorial
After reading the Transport 2020 report, the conclusion has to be that it doesn't make sense. The report consultants found that at an "enhanced bus system" spending level, a single bus rider could be added for $1.50, most covered by the rider's fare and the current $4 local and federal tax subsidies. The Transport 2020 plan of keeping the fare the same for commuter trains and buses would kick the tax subsidy up to an estimated $65 per rider - one way and with fewer riders than the enhanced bus system.
When the Transport 2020 committee, led by and made up mostly of rail advocates, decided to ignore this less expensive bus detour and stay on track for trains and trolleys, they achieved the dubious distinction of national attention for pigheadedness in author Randal O'Toole's 2007 book "The Best-Laid Plans."
O'Toole points out that crippling the bus system by turning it into a "train feeder" system and eliminating routes that "compete" with the train artificially forces ridership for trains upward and makes trains an easier sell.
The problem is traffic congestion. The solution is bypassing through traffic around the Isthmus, enhanced bus service and safer high capacity highways.
- Bill Richardson, Middleton, member, Thegreattrainrobbery.org
The State Journal Editorial Board Will Key On Judges, Jobs, Transportation, Energy And Schools.
[NOTE: The text below is a portion of the original editorial, which can be read in its entirety here.]
/Steer Clear of Gridlock
The Madison area is headed toward gridlock - not only for the region's commuters but also for the regional economy - unless we get busy on a regional transportation plan.
But before we can do that, the region's leaders must overcome suspicion and rivalry dividing rural and urban interests.
All the transportation options - road construction, expanded bus service, commuter rail - are expensive, though not as costly in the long term as ignoring the problem would be.
The top priority should be to determine the most cost-effective solution or series of solutions.
With that in mind, Job No. 1 should be to determine if the commuter rail proposal developed by the regional Transport 2020 committee makes sense.
After a study of the area's transportation needs and problems, Transport 2020 - a group of representatives of the city, county, state and university - developed, with citizen input, a plan for a commuter rail line connecting Middleton and Sun Prairie through Downtown Madison.
The project is unlikely to be doable without federal aid. To apply for aid, the Dane County region must identify a local funding source and a local operator for the line.
The logical answer is to create a regional transportation authority, or RTA, with power to levy a sales tax, if the public agrees in a referendum. But to do that, the Legislature needs to pass a bill authorizing such an RTA.
Dane County region leaders should keep talking about regional transportation, resolve disagreements and move ahead on an RTA - with the understanding that if commuter rail does not prove viable, the focus will shift to other options.